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Banks v. County of Alameda

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 23, 2014

GREGORY M. BANKS, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF ALAMEDA, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS Re: Dkt. Nos. 14, 16, 17

WILLIAM H. ORRICK, District Judge.

Pro se plaintiff Gregory Banks is suing the County of Alameda for breach of fiduciary duty and declaratory relief because it allegedly mismanaged Banks's child support case: he alleges that Alameda failed to close his child support case even though he complied with all of the necessary state law procedures to close the case. His complaint does not state a federal claim because (i) there is no diversity jurisdiction as both parties are residents of California, (ii) Mr. Banks has not alleged facts sufficient to state a claim that Alameda violated his federal constitutional or statutory rights, (iii) Mr. Banks' has not sufficiently identified an Alameda "policy" that deprived him of a protected right as required by Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978), and (iv) state law provides an adequate post-deprivation remedy for Mr. Banks's claims. Mr. Banks's complaint is DISMISSED with leave to amend.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

Mr. Banks alleges that he "filed a petition about the concern of child support payment that was paid in full and expired" in June 2013. Compl. ¶ 5 [Dkt. No. 1]. The petition requested that Mr. Banks's child support case be closed and that an "audit of payment be given in accordance to the rules and regulations of the law in order for plaintiff to get his passport." Id. at ¶¶ 5-6. Mr. Banks asserts that Alameda failed to close his case, after which he "filed with the Compromise of Arrears Program (COAP) for reduction, and was told that he will have to get a waiver from the Custodial Parent, in [sic] Plaintiff did so." Id. at ¶ 7. He contends that Alameda "breached their fiduciary duty of care, [by, ] among other things, routinely mismanaging the Child Support Program, and failing to comply with the terms of the Program governing regulations and laws." Id. ¶ 8. Mr. Banks's request for declaratory relief seeks declarations "to enable the parties to ascertain their rights and duties to each other." Id. ¶ 12.

Alameda moved to dismiss. I heard argument on its motion on April 16, 2014.

LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a district court must dismiss a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts that "allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). This standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but there must be "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. While courts do not require "heightened fact pleading of specifics, " a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570.

In deciding whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court accepts the plaintiff's allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Usher v. City of Los Angeles, 828 F.2d 556, 561 (9th Cir. 1987). However, the court is not required to accept as true "allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008). If the court dismisses the complaint, it "should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts." Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000). In making this determination, the court should consider factors such as "the presence or absence of undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous amendments, undue prejudice to the opposing party and futility of the proposed amendment." Moore v. Kayport Package Express, 885 F.2d 531, 538 (9th Cir.1989).

Pro se complaints are held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Where a plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court has an obligation to construe the pleadings liberally and to afford the plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. Bretz v. Kelman, 773 F.2d 1026, 1027 n.1 (9th Cir. 1985) (en banc). However, pro se pleadings must still allege facts sufficient to allow a reviewing court to determine whether a claim has been stated. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

DISCUSSION

I. BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY

Mr. Banks alleges that Alameda breached its fiduciary duty by "routinely mismanaging the Child Support Program, and failing to comply with the terms of the Program governing regulations and laws." Compl. ¶ 8. He asserts that he has no means to support himself and his other minor children because Alameda mismanaged the program. Id. at ¶ 9. In the civil cover sheet, he stated that his action against Alameda arises under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dkt. No. 1 at 4.

A claim for breach of a fiduciary duty is a claim under state law and does not give rise to federal question jurisdiction. Unless the parties are from different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, there would be no federal jurisdiction for a claim for breach of fiduciary duty. Both Mr. Banks and Alameda are California citizens. See Dkt. No. 1 (listing Mr. Banks's address in San Leandro, California). Accordingly, Mr. Banks's complaint can only be brought in federal court if he adequately states a Section 1983 claim for deprivation of his constitutional rights. I will construe Mr. Banks's complaint as an effort to allege that Alameda violated his civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. section 1983.

Liberally construed, Mr. Banks alleges that Alameda took his property without due process of law. If properly pleaded, this states a claim under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, which provides a remedy for constitutional violations by persons ...


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